Saint Lucians from all walks of life turned out in droves last weekend to participate in various activities in commemoration of the island’s 36th anniversary of its political independence from Britain on February 22, 1979. And while activities were held in various parts of the island, including Castries, Gros Islet and Laborie, the town of Vieux Fort in the south of the island was the major hub of activity.
Dubbed “Independence City”, Vieux Fort came alive on Saturday February 21, with the first ever Seafood and Meat Extravaganza featuring local chefs and cooks preparing the dishes. That evening a number of artistes also performed on the promenade in Vieux Fort where the event was held.The following day, February 22, Independence Day, the annual parade of uniformed groups took place at the Sab playing field at Vigie. There, both the Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy and Prime Minister Kenny Anthony inspected the guards as the groups marched past. They included various arms of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, the Saint Lucia Fire Service, the Cadet Corps, the Bordelais Correctional Facility Wardens, the Saint Lucia Girl Guides and the Boy Scouts. On that morning the names of the recipients of national awards were announced. This year,
for the first time, the list includes a national hero honour. Two persons will receive the awards posthumously; they are former chief minister George Charles, and Sir John Compton who led the island into Independence.
Later that morning hundreds of motorcyclists made their way from the Boulevard in Castries down to Vieux Fort where they were expected to participate in a motocross exhibition.
Vieux Fort was a hive of activity that day, particularly the Phillip Marcelin Grounds and its surroundings, where the main activities were held. Inside the grounds the annual Independence rally, the Independence Food Fair and Exhibition, the Dance Festival and Slam Concert were held.
The rally itself featured a number of performers who attempted to give meaning to this year’s Independence theme, “The Journey.” They included the Miracle Dancers with a dance duet and moving poetry/drumming recital from Kendal Hippolyte and Nestor. In his first piece, “The Land”, Hippolyte pointed out that if Saint Lucians were to be truly independent then the first thing they should own and control is the land.
The performances were interspersed with speeches from the Venezuelan ambassador Leiff Escalona, Opposition Leader Gale Rigobert and Kenny Anthony the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, among others. Rigobert, while calling all to be proud of the achievements of the island’s great sons and daughters, also called for the healing of the nation of prejudices. These prejudices, according to her, “threaten to select and de-select who among us shall succeed and who will waste away at the fringes of our society”.
For his part Dr. Anthony reminded of the roots of many of our ancestors, not just from Africa but also from many parts of the world as he emphasized the notion of the journey in his speech. “Today as we mark Independence at 36 we should ask, ‘How far can we journey with Saint Lucia in a day? How much work can we do for Saint Lucia in a day? What can we do for our island nation as a birthday gift?’ Just think for a moment. If we each would give a day of service of our talent to our country what could this country achieve?” the prime minister said on Sunday.
As the day’s journey continued, the large crowd was treated to performances by a number of Saint Lucian performers including Rob Zi Taylor, Ronald “Boo” Hinkson, Naomie Granderson, Invader, Evalucian band, TC Brown, Dupes and others. There was also a fashion parade and dance numbers from the local Indian community as well as students from the medical school in Vieux Fort.
The following day, Monday February 23, the celebrations continued at the Sandy Beach in Vieux Fort and at Pigeon Island in Gros Islet which featured a number of performers including Herb Black, Mongstar, De Ashanti, Meshach, Michael Robinson and several others.